Joanne Harris - Jigs and Reels : BBC Radio 4 Extra : August 12, 2016 11:00AM-11:15AM BST
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After 40 years teaching creative writing, sneaky Mr Fisher discovers a masterpiece.
🔗 Selling stuff and I've interviewed James a cast and I do believe you said
🔗 that he wrote send up his first year.
🔗 Not like first full show
🔗 but the first Emmy just went out to do spot so that's an somewhere which is only.
🔗 OK I was concerned other way
🔗 that we can go it's a horror it's just being out not a God I don't work is not I'm
🔗 going to go got type I'm not attend person.
🔗 You know the other party girl scouts like I don't know if you do the same we mainly
🔗 learn to go and so staff. Would you call will show the world. I'm looking for.
🔗 I think I think so.
🔗 When you sort of take a stick that will point with a knife be willing
🔗 that sounds WAY nicer than actually preparing a murder weapon but over ten packs.
🔗 You know you can buy those you don't need to make them.
🔗 Yeah but you're supposed to be prepared.
🔗 OK so I did whistling in Danish just to do the action
🔗 through the snow to snigger it and using as a better word for it.
🔗 Yeah sounds really tough.
🔗 And they were the whistle exams of your whistling whilst knitting.
🔗 Thank you very much for coming here.
🔗 Sophie thanks for the comedy club on B.B.C.
🔗 Radio four extra every night from ten.
🔗 Radio four.
🔗 It's eleven o'clock Good morning I'm Kathy Clarkston coming next one last short
🔗 story from Joanne Harris.
🔗 After a chance meeting two men pieced together the stories
🔗 that once linked their families one hundred fifty years ago time added on for
🔗 injuries is our drama in fifteen minutes.
🔗 And later this evening so music looks at him.
🔗 That's often played at state occasions such as the wedding of our own dear Queen
🔗 praise my soul the King of Heaven at six thirty.
🔗 John Harris has been supplying us with short stories this week from her collection
🔗 jigs and reels now Stephen Moore reads the last of them. It's called Field gold.
🔗 The last story in the world was written between seven fifty five
🔗 and eight thirty on Friday December the first two thousand and two.
🔗 Most of it over breakfast at a guess
🔗 but in the last two paragraphs the handwriting betrayed a telltale shakiness an
🔗 unseemly lack of attention to capital letters
🔗 and full stops which suggested the school bus.
🔗 It came in one thousand nine hundred pile of twenty two which meant
🔗 that it was almost five o'clock before Mr Fischer got around to marking it at all.
🔗 Mr Fischer lived alone in a small terraced house in the center of town he did not
🔗 own a car
🔗 and therefore preferred to do as much as he could of his weekend marking in the
🔗 form room after school.
🔗 Even so there were usually two or three stacks of books
🔗 and papers to take home on the bus.
🔗 Mr Fischer had used the same old leather briefcase for over forty years
🔗 and it was still good though battered
🔗 and stretched at the seams from the weight of ten thousand are hundred thousand
🔗 English essays.
🔗 But today he had found a hole in one corner through which pens and rulers
🔗 and other small fly objects might finger their way and be lost. Outside.
🔗 It was already dark and the thin wet unromantic snow was beginning to fall.
🔗 But it was to save his briefcase any further abuse at least until
🔗 that hole could be mended
🔗 that Mr Fisher decided to stay a little longer make himself a last cup of tea
🔗 and finish is marking. It had been a disappointing term it's in dollars wrote.
🔗 For most of the boys in three F.
🔗 Creative writing was on a par with Country dancing
🔗 and food technology on the cosmic scale of things.
🔗 Oh he tried to engage their interest.
🔗 But books just didn't seem to kindle the same enthusiasm as they had in.
🔗 The old days. Mr Fisher remembered a time.
🔗 Surely not so long ago when books were golden when imaginations soared
🔗 when the world was filled with stories which ran like gazelles
🔗 and pounced like tigers and exploded like rockets illuminating minds
🔗 and hearts he had seen it happen. Had seen whole classes swept away in the fever.
🔗 Now though Mr Fisher continued to teach with as much devotion to duty as he had
🔗 forty years before he was secretly aware
🔗 that his voice had begun to lack conviction to these boys these sullen boys with
🔗 their jelled hair and perfect teeth.
🔗 Everything was boring Shakespeare was boring Dickens was boring.
🔗 There didn't seem to be a single story left in the world
🔗 that they hadn't heard before and over the years that he tried to stop it.
🔗 A terrible lassitude
🔗 that crept over Mr Fisher who had once dreamed so fiercely of writing stories of
🔗 his own a terrible conviction.
🔗 They had come to the end of the scene he understood there were no more stories to
🔗 be written the magic had run out.
🔗 This was an uncharacteristically gloomy train of thought.
🔗 Mr Fisher pushed it away and looked in his briefcase for a consulate
🔗 or a chocolate biscuit. Not all his boys lacked imagination.
🔗 Alister to
🔗 that for instance even though he had obviously done part of his homework on the bus
🔗 an amiable boy this timid all the more pleasing for his air of indefinable grabbing
🔗 this his sense of always being partly elsewhere.
🔗 Not a brilliant scholar by any means
🔗 but there was a spark in him which deserved attention.
🔗 Mr Fischer took a deep breath
🔗 and looked down at Tibbets exercise book trying not to think of the snow outside in
🔗 the five o'clock bus he was now almost certain to miss four books to go.
🔗 He told himself and then home dinner bed.
🔗 The comforting small routine of the winter weekend.
🔗 And so it was that Mr Fischer took a last drink of his cold tea
🔗 and began to read the last story in the world.
🔗 It took him a few minutes to realize that it was the last story.
🔗 To be it was no stylist and both handwriting and punctuation were erratic.
🔗 But gradually sitting there in the warm classroom with the smell of chalk
🔗 and floor polishing his nostrils.
🔗 Mr Fisher began to experience a very strange sensation.
🔗 He began as a tightening in his diaphragm as if alone unused muscle had been
🔗 brought into action. His breathing quick and stopped quickened again.
🔗 He began to sweat. And when he reached the end of the story.
🔗 Mr Fisher put down his red pen
🔗 and went back to the beginning really reading every word very slowly
🔗 and with meticulous care.
🔗 This must be what a prospective feels when discouraged and bankrupt
🔗 and ready to go home. He takes off his boot
🔗 and shakes out a nugget the size of his fist.
🔗 He read it again critically this time marking off the paragraphs with notes in red.
🔗 A hope which at first.
🔗 Mr Fisher had hardly dead to formulate swelled in him
🔗 and grew strong he found himself beginning to smile.
🔗 If anyone had asked him then what to
🔗 that story was about Mr Fisher might have been hard put to reply.
🔗 There were themes he recognized elements of plot which were vaguely familiar an
🔗 adventure a quest a child a man but to explain to
🔗 that story in these terms was as meaningless as trying to describe the loved one's
🔗 face in terms of nose eyes mouth.
🔗 This was something new
🔗 or something entirely original.
🔗 In forty years of teaching English Mr Fischer had come to believe
🔗 that nothing was new in literature.
🔗 The same plots are repeated time
🔗 and time again the tragic lovers the quest The Trickster the revenge.
🔗 Judge the savior the coming of age.
🔗 The struggle between good
🔗 and evil a change of costume here of location their stories.
🔗 Do not die but are simply reincarnated every generation
🔗 or so into a different time and idiom.
🔗 It was this belief which had finally put an end to Mr Fish's own ambitions years
🔗 ago the angry certainty
🔗 that whatever he wrote would only ever be at best a pale reflection of something
🔗 else. But here was his theory disproved.
🔗 Tippett story stood alone a completely original idea perhaps
🔗 the first in a hundred years as the holy grail of literature the last
🔗 story in the world.
🔗 It occurred then to Mr Fisher How many people might have an interest in such a
🔗 story Hollywood for instance always at a loss for new material book publishers
🔗 newspapers magazines. A new idea could start a dentist.
🔗 Generations of related stories.
🔗 Whoever copyrighted such an idea could make a man more than famous more than
🔗 wealthy. It could make him immortal. Once more. Mr Fisher considered.
🔗 Alistair Tippett An amiable boy without apparent genius has slightly too long shirt
🔗 untucked a bit to a late comer to class no stylist certainly his spelling was
🔗 atrocious and certainly in no position to make his case to the media such a waste.
🔗 Did it was hardly likely to appreciate the magnitude of this discovery indeed his
🔗 handwriting alone show that his mind had been elsewhere from the start. Besides.
🔗 Who was the boy's teacher who had taught him everything he knew.
🔗 Forty years hard work had to count for something. And in the shape of this boy.
🔗 It had finally come to fruition. In all his years of teaching Mr Fischer had never.
🔗 Light forgotten his earliest ambitions.
🔗 Through the years he had come to think wrongly as it happened
🔗 that he simply didn't have the talent
🔗 or the inspiration to write now he realized that only fear
🔗 and I'm certain he had kept him back at the last he knew what he wanted to say how
🔗 to make his mark upon the world.
🔗 He began to see how the story could be presented in this huge treatment of about
🔗 three hundred pages in novel form and the treatment was the important part.
🔗 Without it. No story however inspired could be anything more than wishful thinking.
🔗 After all Shakespeare took inspiration from because here.
🔗 Mr Fischer speculated
🔗 that he could have a rough synopsis by some day send copies off in Monday's Post.
🔗 Of course he would have to take precautions a statement deposited in his bank would
🔗 that his copyright remained intact publishing was full of unscrupulous people the
🔗 film industry it doubly so.
🔗 With luck the office might start coming in by Christmas. And did it.
🔗 In his excitement Mr Fisher had almost forgotten the boy.
🔗 Surely he owed him something obviously an acknowledgment was out of the question in
🔗 today's litigious society that would be simply asking for trouble.
🔗 Mr Fisher thought hard very moment.
🔗 Then he picked up his red pen
🔗 and wrote carefully at the bottom of the essay good content more care needed with
🔗 Presentation B. Plus. It was more than fair. I thought Mr Fish.
🔗 The class average rarely went higher than a C.. It was five twenty five.
🔗 In the corridor or Mr Fischer could hear the cleaners packing up their buckets
🔗 and mops. His next pass Herm left at five thirty. If you was quick.
🔗 He could still catch it.
🔗 Leaving the pile of third form exercise books on the corner of the desk.
🔗 Except for Tippit which he slipped into his briefcase next to the biscuits.
🔗 He rinsed his mug in the sink looked his desk drawer. Or and put on his overcoat.
🔗 Outside it was still snowing.
🔗 Mr Fischer trudged towards the bus stop briefcase in hand.
🔗 It was very cold as he reached the school gates he realized that in his haste.
🔗 He had left his scarf and gloves in the desk drawer
🔗 but it was almost half past now and he decided against going back to fetch them.
🔗 He did not want to miss his bus.
🔗 Mr Fischer waited in the vandalized bus shelter blowing into his hands
🔗 and thinking about his story his heart was beating alarmingly fast
🔗 but he felt a peculiar energy.
🔗 He might almost have been thirteen again with ink on his fingers and
🔗 that metallic taste of youth in his mouth and the certainty
🔗 that one day he would be great. That one day he too would be a hero.
🔗 The lights went out in the school buildings one by one.
🔗 It was five fifty and there's still no sign of the bus.
🔗 Mr Fischer decided to walk home.
🔗 It was only a couple of miles into town after all
🔗 and it would give him more time to think about his story.
🔗 He walked quickly down the road smiling to himself lost in a warm haze of fantasy.
🔗 After a while he began to feel hungry
🔗 and remembering the biscuits in his briefcase stop to take one the biscuits were
🔗 not there. Mr Fisher frowned as he left them in his desk drawer.
🔗 But though he remembered taking a biscuit and replacing the packet.
🔗 He looked again moving closer to a street lamp to get a better view the biscuits
🔗 were nowhere to be found another in the orange light he could see why the hole in
🔗 the corner of his briefcase had ripped open all along the seam
🔗 and in his excitement over the story he had failed to notice.
🔗 Mr Fisher was annoyed.
🔗 He hated losing things in fact such was his annoyance
🔗 that it was several seconds later
🔗 that he even thought to check whether Tibbets exercise book. Still there.
🔗 It was not. Mr Fischer felt a sudden sharp sweat sting his eyes.
🔗 The book. He checked again running his shaking hands along the torn stitching.
🔗 Here where his hardback form register
🔗 and his plastic file both too bulky to escape here too was his pencil box
🔗 but the story.
🔗 The last story was Coleman is to Fisher felt a jolt of panic.
🔗 He must have dropped it somewhere along the road
🔗 but where he was over a mile from school.
🔗 Now it could be anywhere along that stretch. Still it could not be helped.
🔗 He would have to retrace his steps until he found it. Breathing hard.
🔗 He began the walk back.
🔗 But his progress was slow the wind was in his face stealing his breath
🔗 and the snow was like chips of stone.
🔗 Were still he found
🔗 that the story itself was no longer entirely clear in his mind
🔗 that although he could recall.